Do pawns disregard Einstein?

by Jonathan Speelman
9/19/2021 – A pawn promotion is a huge event in a chess game, as the energy garnered by the pawn advancing up the board is transformed in a most un-Einsteinian way (surely a pawn’s advance doesn’t create that much energy) into serious amounts of matter. Star columnist Jon Speelman looks at overwhelming pawn avalanches, and analyses a game in which Albert Einstein got the better of Robert Oppenheimer. | Pictured: Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer in 1947

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Un-Einsteinian

[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

I was idly watching a fairly random blitz game recently when one of the players had to underpromote. Of course, he had ‘autopromote’ set and there was a significant pause while he sorted himself out and was in fact in time to complete the underpromotion and win before he was flagged.

Albert EinsteinSince I don’t play bullet (no problem with speed of thought, but not fast enough with a mouse) I choose not to autopromote. This has cost me the occasional blitz game, but it does make online chess seem slightly more like the “real” over the board version, and is in some ways fitting. After all, a pawn promotion is a huge event in a chess game, as the energy garnered by the pawn advancing up the board is transformed in a most un-Einsteinian way (surely a pawn’s advance doesn’t create that much energy) into serious amounts of matter.

A fortnight ago, I looked at some pawn “avalanches” in which a player gave up a considerable amount of material to get a phalanx of passed pawns which overwhelmed the enemy. Readers kindly suggested some more of these, and I’m looking at them today. We’ve also got a chess game by Einstein himself against the “father of the atomic bomb” Robert Oppenheimer. I’ve also looked at a moment from the recent Norway Chess Tournament where while promoting  and beating Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin had to be very exact.

 

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.

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